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Academy: 'Disturbing' Oscar campaigns

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HOLLYWOOD, California (Variety) -- Has Oscar campaigning reached Orange Alert?

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Ric Robertson, executive administrator of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said Wednesday that the organization is "greatly concerned about several disturbing campaign tactics" in the current Oscar season.

While no studio has so far been penalized, Robertson hinted that this move is still a possibility: "We may withhold tickets this year -- or next year, for something that happened this season."

The executive gave no specifics, but cited several private parties held in honor of Oscar contenders that seemed to violate Academy rules. Robertson said there are several companies in question, but he declined to name them, since "that would be prejudicial at a time when the balloting is still going on. "

Academy executives regularly speak with studio honchos and awards strategists, "and they know what the guidelines are," Robertson said.


However, finger-pointing is a common practice in Oscar campaigns, and Robertson and other execs, including executive director Bruce Davis and Academy president Frank Pierson, have to sift through a lot of accusations about questionable activities. "It's hard to get the kind of answers we need," he said, "and we have to be thorough, objective and complete."

In the past, several studios have been docked tickets due to campaign violations. If campaigning gets too far out of hand, the ultimate punishment would be that a film is declared ineligible. So far, that has never happened.

Robertson's duties include oversight of Oscar campaigns and violations. He said the Academy conducted its annual formal review of awards-season campaign practices a couple of weeks ago and at the time concluded that there were some guideline violations, "but nothing so heinous as to cause us to subtract tickets."

'Clear violation'

Since then, however, the Academy has become aware of "several disturbing campaign acts," he said. "Among those are the private parties to which members are being invited, in order to press the flesh with various nominees.

"Since many of the members in question don't even know the hosts or anyone connected to these parties, we can only assume that they're being invited solely because of their status as voting members of the Academy. That is a clear violation of our guidelines."

The exec again stressed: "Because we want to be very careful in our investigation of these activities and the relatively late date, we won't necessarily be withholding tickets this year. But we're most definitely reserving all of our options in terms of possible penalties."

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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